Formations Summary

September–December 2021

Unit 1: The Sermon on the Mount

Leigh Powers

This unit gives us several ways to reflect on the theme of movement through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The first lesson will explore how the call to righteousness involves an outward movement in relationship with others and an inward righteousness of practicing our piety before God. Next, we will consider the horizontal and vertical movements of cheerful, faithful giving. Lesson 3 will focus our attention on thanksgiving, and the Israelites’ connection to the cycles of nature: plowing, planting, and reaping. Finally, we will honor the yearly cycles of our religious and secular life by reflecting on the hope of Christmas and its potential to shape our lives as we move into God’s future.

Unit 2: Cheerful Givers

Stephanie Ezell

This unit explores what is means to be a cheerful giver. First, we will look at the story of the Israelites building a tabernacle for worshiping God as they travel through the wilderness. We will also study the Gospel story of the scribes and religious teachers’ giving in contrast to the giving of the impoverished widow, who offers God everything she has. Finally, we will discuss the early Christian community in the book of Acts. Instead of clinging to their possessions, these new believers sell their property and live together, sharing their resources. As we discuss these texts, we will reflect on how our giving can be a grateful, cheerful response to our loving God who is the source of all our gifts.

Unit 3: Lord of the Harvest

Jason Loscuito

The lessons in this unit will focus on harvesting, sharing, and rejoicing in God’s providence as we prepare to participate in our annual tradition. In the first session, we will reflect on how we can attune ourselves to the rhythms of God’s creation through Psalm 104. In session 2, we will investigate what Paul and the writers of Leviticus say about God’s provision for human need. The central question of the third session asks us to reflect on what can happen when we share what we have with God and with others, and is addressed by Malachi and Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. The passage in the final session describes a ritual of thanksgiving that the Israelites are to perform once they have entered the promised land, making connections between this ancient ritual and our own ways of thanking God for the blessings we enjoy.

Unit 4: The Hope of Advent

Taylor Sandlin

Many of us are familiar with the themes of hope, peace, joy, and love conveyed in the Advent wreath. The lessons of this unit are arranged according to a different tradition of reflecting on the meaning of Christ’s coming: the Prophets’ Candle, the Bethlehem Candle, the Shepherds’ Candle, and the Angels’ Candle. Each candle’s meaning will be explored through a passage in John’s Gospel. Though John gives us no manger, no shepherds or angels, and not even the little town of Bethlehem, he points us to what really matters about this season: that the Word became flesh in Jesus Christ and dwelled among us.

January–April 2022

Unit 1: Tell the Good News

Wayne Ballard

In this unit, we will explore a combination of Old and New Testament texts focusing on the good news of the reign of God and the salvation God brings. The first lesson focuses on an early Christian hymn affirming Jesus’ power. In the second, Paul states that the Christian life is lived by faith. Lesson three focuses on the messengers of good news, while the fourth focuses on praise for God and God’s reign. Finally, we will consider the promise of the return of Jesus and the need to remain diligent in this interim time. Throughout, we are encouraged to look eagerly for the Lord’s return while dealing with the pressing matters of everyday life.

Unit 2: Noah and the Flood

Danny Chisholm

This unit is an exploration of the flood story found in the book of Genesis. Even those who have little exposure to the Bible have heard about the great flood, the wooden vessel, and the family and creatures inside. Throughout this unit, we will consider the gravity of human sinfulness and God’s protection and provision during the flood. We will also ponder where hope can be found in our world. Noah and his family survived the storm but must have wondered what they would face when they left the ark. Revisiting this familiar story will challenge us to examine our own view of God and how that perspective influences our lives today.

Unit 3: Face to Face with Jesus

Alicia Davis Porterfield

These sessions explore four of Jesus’ face-to-face encounters with individuals or crowds. In John 3, we meet Nicodemus, a Pharisee who comes to Jesus by night to learn more about him. Next, we learn about members of a crowd who ask for the “bread of life.” In John 8, an adulteress who is dragged into the religious authorities’ scheme to discredit and arrest Jesus. Finally, we encounter the man born blind, whom Jesus heals both physically and spiritually. In every scene, we see how Jesus brings change, challenge, and grace. No one who encounters him walks away without being touched. And thankfully, neither do we.

Unit 4: The Joy of Easter

Rickey Letson

The Gospel is John is unique from the other Gospels in that it is theological as well as biographical, and because it tells stories and shares sayings not found in the other three. These unique elements will be on full display in the four lessons of this unit as we explore Jesus’ miraculous raising of Lazarus, his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the morning of his resurrection, and Thomas’s exclamation of faith, “My Lord and my God!” With careful study, we will understand the familiar stories of the Lenten and Easter season in a new, helpful, and transformative way.